This is hopefully to become an either weekly or monthly feature on a past film and why a particular scene works to illustrate the general feeling of the entire picture or in some cases how it fails. I would love to hear your insights and thoughts on this idea. And maybe even a few suggestions as to other movies that could be showcased in this format. I hope you enjoy.
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Chris Copper and Thora Birch.
Released: 1st of October 1999
Runtime: 122 minutes
Rating: R for strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content.
A complete humanistic picture, American Beauty showcases the dark underbelly of the American dream. The movie centers around a family – all the member of which are dissatisfied with the direction and blandness of their lives. What benefits the film is that all the parts are played by great actors, and not marquee stars. A story with such a subtle complexity requires a group of thespians capable of translating the message without seeming forced. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening deliver career defining performances and director Sam Mendes solidifies his name as a premiere visionary. The vast majority of times film such as American Beauty are ignored during award season in lieu of something more dramatic and a war epic, but the film managed five Academy Award wins including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. The film masterfully captures a beautiful story of the search for fulfillment – and it is one you’ll over and over again.
Setting up the scene:
This is the major turning point in the film and also the source for some of its biggest laughs. At the beginning we are given this seemingly normal family but hints are dropped to suggest otherwise. The distinct characters and clever script keep audiences mesmerized as the transformation takes place. Before the “dinner scene” we are given an understanding about each of the characters and a glimpse to where it all is heading.
The Scene (this post may contain images and language that is not suitable for all ages):
The scene I have selected is the dinner scene in which the three main characters sit down for a very lively family meal. The scene reflects the point in the movie where Lester Burnham (Spacey) has had enough with his dreary existance and quits his job. The decision doesn’t sit will with Carolyn (Bening) and this is were the conflict in the scene is sparked. Their daughter, Jane (Thora Birch) is caught in cross hairs of her parents distaste for one another. The meat of the scene is in the back-and-forth bickering between Lester and Carolyn, which delivers a wide array of emotions from anger, hatred, and even humor.
American Beauty has many assets, but this helps elevate past a good film you see once to a great film you see dozens of time and can quote its lines. The film serves as a cautionary tale about the search for meaning and fulfillment as each of the characters is effected differently by their very own search. The only travesty is that Annette Bening failed to win the Oscar for Best Actress despite her equally spectacular performance.
Here it is Enjoy!